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There are a number of terms to describe learners with behavioural difficulties. In earlier years they were categorised as being maladjusted defined by The Underwood Committee Report on Maladjusted Children in 1995 as " an individuals relation at a particular time to people and circumstances which make up his environment".
This was later succeeded by Emotional Behavioural Difficulties (EBD) as referred to in the Special Educational Needs; Report of the committee of Enquiry Into the Education of Handicapped Children and Young People (The Warnock Report); HMSO (1978). The Elton Report (1989) stated a child had EBD when they showed "severe and persistent behaviour problems as a result of emotional or neurological disturbance such that their needs cannot be met in an ordinary school", Elton Report (1989 p.42 cited in Wood, 1995, p14).
Within this statement I already notice the reference of need for EBD pupils' to be educated outside of "ordinary schools", promoting the need for exclusion or relocation to alternate provider of education. This definition does not consider the complexity of influences that contribute to the behaviour itself. SEN code of practice
This was later replaced by behavioural, emotional & social difficulties (BESD) identified in the SEN code of practice as: "Children and young people who demonstrate features of behavioural and emotional difficulties who are withdrawn or isolated, disruptive and disturbing, hyperactive and lack concentration; those with immature social skills; and those presenting challenging behaviours arising from other complex special needs." (DfES,2001a: 7:60 cited in Capel, Leask & Turner, 2009).
Sometimes the fact that the pupil has a SEN and the noted disruptive behaviour is the result is often overlooked. The pressures of the education system due to the rigidity of the curriculum, demands on raising achievement, low staffing ratios and time constraints, teachers interpret difficult behaviour as particularly stressful due to the amount of time spent on behavioural issues as opposed to teaching and learning as supported by Bennett (2006). It is this negation that has raised concern for this particular group and their inclusion in the main framework of the education system.
The Department for Children Schools & Families (DCSF), Statistical First Release (SFR) (2009) reported a rise of 7% in permanent exclusions from 2001/02 to 2003/04 with permanent exclusions reaching 8430, which then fell back to 7000 in 2007/08 within state funded secondary schools. The report also identified that;
"Pupils with SEN (both with and without statements) are over 8 times more likely to be permanently excluded than those pupils with no SEN. In 2007/08, 33 in every 10,000 pupils with statements of SEN and 38 in every 10,000 pupils with SEN without statements were permanently excluded from school. This compares with 4 in every 10,000 pupils with no SEN.
The figures show a small decrease in the rate of fixed period exclusions in secondary schools for those pupils with SEN compared with the previous year. In 2007/08, the rate of fixed period exclusion for those pupils with statements was 30.8 per cent; the rate for those with SEN without statements was 28.9 per cent. This compares to 5.1 per cent for those pupils with no SEN."
(DCSF SFR, 2009).
I found the most significant aspect of this report is the majority of exclusions both permanent and fixed period, where as a result of persistent disruptive behaviour. This contributed to a massive 31% to all permanent exclusions during 2007/08 in state funded secondary schools in the UK (DCSF SFR, 2009) as often associated with BESD learners. This was double that of the next major contributor being physical assault on another pupil. Having looked at these figures it is obvious that the inclusion of BESD pupils' is still very much a high priority area, considering the sheer volume of exclusions they represent. As a next step I need to look into what practises and policies are being put in place to help reduce this figure.
It is apparent that BESD clearly stands out from other SEN designations. Many within the education system still remain unclear on how to manage learners whose SEN regularly seems to require retributive action, potentially including exclusion. It is strange to consider a school policy that recommended a punitive response for a learner who demonstrated difficulty in reading as a result of a known learning difficulty. If this were so all learners recognised as having a SEN with cognitive impairment like dyslexia, would be at continuous risk of exclusion simply because of their SEN. Realistically they would have their needs met by an individualised programme, including additional resources, learning support, additional time allowances, ICT accessibility and much more. (Null, 2008).
If a pupil is identified as having BESD falls prey to the exclusion penalty, is this a reflection on the schools inability to manage and support that pupil failing to meet the requirement of the National Curriculum's Inclusion Policy. Is it still acceptable to say that in some instances exclusion may be the only option not in the sense of "getting rid" as its negative connotation implies, but to place the learner in an environment that will be better equipped to guarantee their entitlement to an education. Previously I thought that exclusion was a means of moving on learners to a more suitable learning environment where they will have better support. Having experienced the other side of exclusion, I question this move. There is growing concern over the ability of alternate provisions to meet the needs of the learners in reference to the frequency of sessions available and the nature of the educational opportunities on offer (Gray and Panter, 2000).
Should more be done to prevent exclusion, schools reflect the structure and rules of the society we live in and if we cannot teach BESD learners how to cope within the confines of a school, how are they to manage in society where there is very little support. Exclusion deprives learners of social interaction and a high level of education, increasing the chances of them becoming disaffected, taking part in anti social behaviour and reducing their contribution to the country's social and economic well being (Gray and Panter, 2000).
During an observation at School A, I identified that as part of the schools' Plan for Success 2010-13 they wanted to raise achievement of the least successful groups of students.
I hope to investigate the current trends of inclusion of BESD pupils' and identify what practices are beneficial in promoting their inclusion in mainstream secondary schools and their effectiveness in promoting a positive learning environment, raising attainment and creating well rounded learners who are able to achieve social and economic well being, in accordance with the Every Child Matters (ECM) Aims.
In order to understand what is being done to include learners I must first define it.
Inclusion is the increase of participation and reduction of exclusion from, the cultures curricula and communities of local schools. Inclusion is concerned with the learning participation of all students vulnerable to exclusionary pressures, not only those with SEN. Inclusion is concerned with improving schools for staff as well as for students.
(Centre for Studies on Inclusion in Education(CSIE), 2000).
The current national framework is embed with values and principles supporting equality, diversity and inclusion including the right of all learners to access a rich curriculum, provide opportunity to belong and achieve. These rights were set out in the national curriculum as a set of principles now known as the `general inclusion statement`. The three main principles for inclusion are;
The need for suitable learning challenges
Responding to pupils' diverse learning needs
Overcome potential barriers to learning and assessment.
These three principles focus heavily on what the school and teachers should be doing to create a positive learning environment for all learners. For me the most important issue to consider is, what additional resources and training are provided to help teachers cater for individual learning needs.
Having carried out further investigation on the effective management of BESD pupils' including a visit to a school with an internal support unit, I have identified several methods that were echoed in promoting the inclusion of BESD pupils'.
Over the last few years there has been a steady decline in exclusions due to the increase in special education units within mainstream schools in an attempt to promote inclusion. Special education units within schools provide opportunity for pupils' with BESD to have an individualised timetable; providing additional support where it is needed, allowing most of their educational and social development to develop in a mainstream environment (Gray and Panter, 2000). From my observations at school A I identified that the unit provided an environment that the pupils' felt safe and able to focus on their learning where the staff had good relationships with the pupils'. During my time at the unit it seemed apparent that clear rules and expectations had been set out. The pupils' responded positively to the teacher when managing their behaviour'. In a published report in 1999 by Ofsted they identified that pupils' with BESD preferred working with teachers who meant what they said and were fair but firm. Additionally the research identified that schools that were successful in including BESD learners followed a model in which poor behaviour is not the fault of the pupil but their reaction to the people and their surrounding environment as shared by The Underwood Committee Report on Maladjusted Children (1955) and Ogden (2001 cited in Jull, 2008, p.15).
Having read these explanations I now know it is important for schools to consider how the school environment can be modified both physically and socially to reduce the presence of triggers leading to behavioural problems. Examples of such triggers include unfair competition, inappropriate or irrelevant academic requirements, autocratic teaching style and excessive or lack of structuring (Maag, 2004, p.61). This adjustment in environment should be inclusive of a flexible curriculum individually structured to the pupil. Through research by Ofsted in 1999 and 2006 they had recorded that effective units recognised that pupils' have weak literacy and numeracy skills, leading to frustration and inability to access the normal curriculum. By paying close attention to these basic skills they were able to improve the pupils' self esteem and confidence often leading to a reduction in poor behaviour. This allowed the pupils' to tackle main curriculum areas and gain formal qualifications. This supports the theory that negative behaviour can be exacerbated due to the pupils' lack of basic skills during mainstream lessons, thus rejecting their situational environment. This understanding is important to me when considering why a pupil is being disruptive in my lesson. Some pupils' at school A were accessing alternate curriculum opportunities at the local college including a range of vocational courses. This allowed pupils' to have input into their learning. The benefit of having specialist units on school sites is to promote reintegration and as little diversion from normal school environment as possible as it plays an important role in sociocultural development.
During a visit to school A , I observed pupil A, whose timetable consisted of lessons in the support unit and normal lessons in the afternoon. During the morning pupil A attended morning lessons in the support unit instead of physical education due to a conflict with the teacher which I identified as an ongoing problem through discussion but had yet to be resolved. In the afternoon he attended science and mathematics. There was a clear contrast in the way each lesson was delivered. The science lesson only had four pupils' attending who were all sat separately at the teachers instruction. The lesson was lead in a very authoritarian way. Pupil A was showing signs of disengagement by looking around and fiddling with items on his desk. I felt pupil A had not been motivated or challenged academically. In contrast the mathematics lesson was a lot busier. The teacher started with an interactive starter getting the whole class engaged. There was good classroom management where some problematic pupils' had to be relocated and the teacher demanded silence when explaining activities but was quite happy to allow students to talk while working once they had finished. The classroom was a very positive learning atmosphere with all pupils' working and enjoying themselves. I noted that pupil A was one of the brightest in the class as the teacher supported during discussion at the end of the lesson. The teacher had provided plenty of opportunities for pupil A to answer questions during the lesson and provided lots of positive praise. It was interesting for me on reflection to consider where pupil A had been seated during the lesson and had this had a direct impact on his ability to focus.
Schools should also consider how they can use extra curricular and residential activities to promote pupils; self worth and social development. Current projects included the DCSF & YHA community spirit programme which allows students from deprived backgrounds to take part in outdoor activities with outcomes in line with the ECM aims.
The aesthetics of the classroom were shown signs of degradation and the seating layout did not seem optimal.
The school followed the SEN Code of Practice three stage approach in identifying levels of support for pupils on the SEN register. When looking at the Special Educational Needs Staff Handbook I noted all pupils' registered as having BESD where School Action or higher. I was then able to identify through the provision maps in the handbook what support the pupil's would receive.
Comparison between the behaviour of junior aged children attending a unit for pupils with emotional and behavioural difficulties and similar children in mainstream classes
Wood, Michael Henry